WELLINGTON, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand government is to test new technology to deal with unexploded munitions as part of a package to help clear Vietnam War-era ordnance from Laos, Prime Minister John Key said on Thursday.
New Zealand will provide up to 11.5 million NZ dollars (8.58 million U.S. dollars) in support for clearing unexploded ordnance (UXO), Key said in a statement from his office after meeting with Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith in Vientiane, during the East Asia Summit.
The funding would include trialling innovative New Zealand technology that destroyed UXO by melting casings without having to dig up or explode each piece, making it safer and easier to clear, particularly in densely populated or built up areas.
"Laos is the most heavily bombed country on earth by head of population and is still clearing up around 80 million pieces of unexploded munitions left over from the war in Indochina during the 1960s and 1970s," Key said.
"Around a third of all bombs dropped at the time failed to explode and that unexploded ordnance kills or injures around 50 people every year, and stifles the country's economic development," he said.
"New Zealand has a strong legacy of supporting UXO clearance around the world, including for the past 20 years in Laos, and this funding will make a real difference to the safety and economic prospects of the people there."
Key also announced an "open skies" air services agreement with Laos.
"This agreement builds on the network of air services agreements across Southeast Asia, a region which presents significant opportunities to New Zealand, and it will encourage greater connections between our two countries," he said.